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Co-worker of man killed in Erie bank robbery blast dies at home

Monday, September 01, 2003

By the Associated Press

ERIE, Pa. -- A friend and co-worker of a pizza deliveryman who robbed a bank, then died when a bomb strapped to his body exploded, was found dead at his home yesterday.

Police said there was no obvious connection between the two deaths. Authorities sent a bomb squad to search the home in Lawrence Park Township as a precaution, but they found nothing suspicious, state police Cpl. Mark Zaleski said.

"There was nothing overtly obvious as to the cause of his death," Zaleski said, "but because there's a relationship between the two individuals, we are over there."

Robert Pinetti, 43, worked with Brian Douglas Wells, 46, who died Thursday shortly after robbing a bank in Erie. Minutes before the bomb went off, Wells told officers who stopped him that he had been forced to rob the bank. No one else was injured in the explosion.

Early yesterday, police received a call asking for medical assistance at the home where Pinetti lived with his parents, but the man refused medical assistance, Zaleski said.

A few hours later, authorities were called again after his parents found him unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at the home and an autopsy was scheduled, Zaleski said.

FBI Special Agent Bob Rudge said there was no reason to connect Pinetti's death to Wells' case.

Over the weekend, federal agents and police in northwestern Pennsylvania were looking for more insight into the bizarre case of Wells, who left to deliver a pizza to a mysterious address in a remote area about an hour before he turned up at the bank with a bomb strapped to his body.

No one else was hurt in Thursday's explosion, which happened in front of law enforcement officers as they waited for a bomb squad to arrive.

WJET-TV of Erie captured audio and video from Wells as he sat handcuffed in front of a state police car. "Why is nobody trying to come get this thing off me?" he asked.

A state police spokesman confirmed Friday night that Wells had made a number of statements, including that he had been forced to rob the bank.

The tape shows Wells telling authorities someone had started a timer on his bomb under his T-shirt, and that there was little time left.

"It's going to go off," Wells said. "I'm not lying."

Erie Chief Deputy Coroner Korac Timon said Saturday the bomb appeared to have hung from Wells' neck, and that he had been told it was of a "very sophisticated construction."

Linda Payne, who owns the property where Wells lived, described him as a private, trustworthy person who liked music and cared for three cats. He was a friend of Payne's husband, who also had been a pizza delivery man, she said.

"I couldn't believe that he would rob a bank. He doesn't care that much about money," Payne said. "I think somebody lured him into that place delivering a pizza, dropped a bomb on him and sent him into the bank ... He would not have decided to do that on his own."

Wells' boss and one of the owners of Mama Mia's Pizza-Ria outside Erie, who asked that his name not be published, said he took a call Thursday for a pizza delivery but didn't recognize the address given.

He put Wells on the phone to get directions. Wells left to make the delivery and never returned, the pizzeria owner said.

The address of the delivery was a rural spot along a main drag that runs south of the city, where a gravel road leads to a television transmission tower.

According to police, Wells entered the PNC Bank branch outside Erie on Thursday afternoon, produced an "extensive note" demanding money and said he had a bomb.

Wells left with an undisclosed amount of money and got into his car. Police surrounded him a short time later in a nearby parking lot, pulled him out of his car and handcuffed him, authorities said.

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